Jesus told us that we cannot be His disciples unless we are willing to take up our crosses and follow Him: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

Elisabeth Elliot said, “To be a follower of the crucified Christ means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.” Elisabeth Elliot knows about loss. Her husband died a martyr in the jungles of Ecuador. However, this loss is not only about physical death. Mrs. Elliot also said, “If you want to be a Christian, see that your mind is made up as his was: be humble, be subject, be obedient—even to death. It will mean death. Be sure of that. Death to some of your desires and plans at least. Death to yourself. But never forget—Jesus’ death was what opened the way for his own exaltation and our everlasting Life. Our death to selfishness is the shining gateway into the glories of the palace of the King. Is it so hard to be his subject? Is the price too high?”

Death to ourselves—that sounds challenging. Yes, it is, but Jesus tells us after that death comes wonderful life and resurrection.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:24-26).

In Luke 9:57, someone told Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” In verse 58, Jesus replied by saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Loosely paraphrased, He was asking the man, “Are you sure you will follow Me wherever I go? Um, I don’t have a house to live in, you know. If you do follow Me, you won’t be able to send your roots into the security of this world—you’ll have to send them deep into Me. You should probably re-evaluate what you just said.”

In the next verse, Jesus called to someone else, “Follow me.” The man agreed but said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Apparently, this fellow wanted to stay home with his aging father until he died—which could have been a very long time.

An excuse. Not a good idea when you’re standing face to face with someone who made the decision to leave His heavenly dwelling place to come to a darkened planet running wild with rebellious people. Keep in mind what kind of home He left—more comfortable, inviting and lovelier than we can possibly imagine. His departure from this glorious habitation would be similar—if such a comparison can even be made—to us making the choice to leave a multi-millionaire’s mansion and a happy family to live alone for thirty years in a wretched refugee camp somewhere outside of a place like Darfur, where squalor, misery and heartache run rampant. Jesus replied to this individual, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60).

Another man said, “‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61-62).

Those who have truly wanted to be disciples of the Lord Jesus have made this kind of life-denying commitment, for the same eternal reasons, for centuries. Christians in the early Church made it—and died. Under Roman persecution, Christians were fastened to crosses, coated in pitch, ignited and used as torches at garden parties. Men, women and children were killed by ravenous lions for the entertainment of crowds in Roman arenas. During the Reformation, Christians were tortured, burned at the stake, and drowned. In seventeenth century Scotland, a group of believers called the Covenanters refused to take an oath recognizing that the king of England was also lord of the Church. The monarchy persecuted, tortured and executed them. Two of the most famous among them were Margaret MacLachlan and Margaret Wilson, better known as the Two Margarets. At trial, the king found them guilty of treason and ordered their execution. Margaret MacLachlan, seventy years old, was tied to a post and drowned in a place called Blednoch Burn, as the tide came in. Eighteen-year-old Margaret Wilson, bound to a post that was closer to shore, watched as Margaret MacLachlan died. Then the soldiers pulled the younger Margaret out of the water and ordered her to pray for the king. A simple request, but one that meant she would have prayed for the king as the lord of the Church. When she refused, they thrust her under water and pulled her out again.

People on the shore pleaded with her. “Oh, Margaret, say it!”

Margaret then prayed, “Lord, give him repentance, forgiveness, and salvation, if it be Your holy will.”

The executioner, a man named Grierson of Lagg, yelled, “Damned bitch, we do not want such prayers. Tender her the oaths!”

Margaret again refused, and they threw her back into the water, drowning her.

On the day of his execution in Edinburgh, Archibald Campbell, ninth earl of Argyle, wrote this to his daughter-in-law, Sophila Lindsay. “What shall I say in this great day of the Lord, wherein in the midst of a cloud, I have found a fair sunshine. I can wish no more for you, but that the Lord may comfort you and shine upon you as He does upon me, and give you that same sense of His love in staying in the world, as I have in going out of it.”

Please pray with me that the Lord will cause His followers to become true disciples, men and women who are willing to die for Him.